On Tuesday, a court in Egypt convicted 43 workers from nonprofit groups including 16 Americans, of using foreign funds illegally to foment national unrest in Egypt. The defendants were sentenced to as long as five years behind bars.
The majority of the Americans convicted had already left Egypt and were convicted in absentia. Included in that group was Sam LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s son who was given a jail term of five years.
Present at the hearing held on Tuesday was Robert Becker an American who was given a sentence of two years. Becker has long maintained that by refusing to flee the country with his fellow Americans, who all were present when the crackdown took place against the nonprofit groups, was a way of showing solidarity to his fellow Egyptian colleagues.
The judge’s verdict also ordered the assets and offices of the nonprofit groups belonging to the U.S. in Egypt to be seized and closed. The nonprofit groups involved included a center for journalist training, the Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
Twenty-seven of 43 defendants were given five-year terms. Five others received sentences of two years and 11 were given one year sentences. The defendants who are tried in absentia usually are convicted and given the maximum sentence but can also be given a retrial.
Besides the 16 Americans, there were eight other defendants who were foreigners including ones from Jordan, Serbia and Lebanon.
The trial started in 2012, during the 17 months Egypt was under military rule. The case created tension between Egypt and the U.S. Washington said if it was not resolved it could lead to the U.S. pulling its aid from Egypt.